Another Mediterranean Campaign for Pug

Another Mediterranean Campaign for PugFrom Peugeot Press [ 29/09/2004 ].
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The WRC continues to break with tradition and, coming immediately after a Rally GB organised in summer, the calendar turns to yet another brand new round in October, the Rallye d' Italia, in Sardinia. Harri Rovanperä, who came 6th in Wales, has previous experience of the Italian event after winning it last year prior to its inclusion in the World Championship, although the actual route was very different twelve months ago. The Finn will be out for a top result on the Mediterranean island, as will Marcus Grönholm who will be looking to obtain the sort of success that has escaped him in recent outings.

After a somewhat rainy Wales Rally GB, the 2004 championship returns to the shores of the Mediterranean which should provide the series with a pleasant, end-of-summer feel. The WRC teams conducted a long campaign in this part of the world last spring when they visited Cyprus, Greece and Turkey in quick succession, but Sardinia stands to be something of a new style event, with nothing whatsoever in common with the asphalt of San Remo, Italy's former WRC qualifier.

The all-gravel newcomer will be based in the celebrated luxury resort of Porto Cervo, while the stages are located further to the south with a central service park in Olbia. In terms of size, Sardinia is the Mediterranean's second biggest island and also the third biggest region of the Italian Republic. It boasts a fine history in rallying too: before its inclusion in the world series, the 'Supermag Rallye d'Italia Sardinia' was already an established fixture under the more evocative name of 'Rallye Costa Smeralda'. Many of the sport's star names, including Markko Alen, Henri Toivonen, Miki Biasion and Juha Kankkunen, have triumphed in this former Italian classic and Harri Rovanperä was the most recent professional driver to add his name to the list of past winners, in 2003.

"I obviously have a fond recollection of this event, especially since the atmosphere with the spectators, as is often the case in Italy, was very nice," says Rovanperä. "My knowledge of the stages won't give me much of an advantage, however, since only 12km of the 2004 event were used last year! But if the character of the rally is the same as last year, it promises to be a fast, narrow and very technically demanding. So it's going to be quite difficult. The team has worked hard to prepare for this event. I hope we will be able to benefit from that because it's true that success has tended to elude us in recent rallies."

Marcus Grönholm agrees that the stages stand to be highly selective: "I had the opportunity to test in the region where the rally is held. On the whole, the tracks seem to be faster than those of Cyprus and Turkey. They are more reminiscent of Portugal or Argentina. I quite like this type of road and I believe we have a good chance. The only question mark concerns the surface. The test stage we used was fairly soft and the roads could cut up after the first pass."